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18 March 2015, 07:16 | Updated: 18 March 2015, 07:19
Police in Dorset are supporting a day to raise awareness of children in danger of being abused - and how to spot the signs.
Dorset Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) are supporting the national awareness day for child sexual exploitation which has been arranged by the charity National Working Group (NWG).
Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of child abuse that involves the manipulation or coercion of young people to engage in sexual activity in exchange for money, gifts including alcohol, tobacco and drugs, accommodation, affection or status.
The awareness day aims to highlight the issues surrounding CSE; encouraging everyone to think, spot the signs and speak out against abuse, and adopt a zero tolerance to adults developing inappropriate relationships with children.
It also encourages those who children chose to confide in to listen, believe them and take appropriate action.
Martyn Underhill, Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner (pictured) said:
“Events like this are brilliant in raising awareness amongst the public and we need to do that. I know it seems like CSE is all over the TV, but actually there are a lot of people who are not thinking CSE and are not reporting it. It happens inside families, schools, gyms, it happens everywhere you go in the community.
"The higher the reports, the higher the engagement we get with victims, the more we can stamp out this horrible crime.”
In Dorset a team to investigate significant risk cases of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) in was formed in September 2014.
Since the team was set up, 61 individual boys and girls across Dorset have been assessed as being at significant risk of CSE. Through multi agency partnership work the risk to these children has now been reduced. They are now safeguarded and continue to be monitored and kept safe.
There are currently 20 children across Dorset assessed as being of significant risk of CSE who are being safeguarded by the team and its partners.
The team have also been joined by Charley Smith, a children’s social worker from Bournemouth Children’s Services; she will be co-located with the CSE team in Bournemouth. Charley will be conducting both joint and one-to-one visits to children as part of a multi-agency approach to disrupt and tackle CSE in our communities.
It is hoped that in the near future this multi-agency approach will develop and grow bringing in other authorities and charities.
Detective Sergeant Andy Bell, of the CSE Investigation Team, said:
“Since the team was formed we have arrested 15 suspected perpetrators of CSE for offences such as rape, inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, creating indecent images of children and drugs offences.”
There are many signs that a child may be at risk. These include drug or alcohol misuse, sexual health issues and sexualised behaviour, sudden access to money or new things, self-harm, change in appearance, change in temperament, low self-esteem, unexplained injuries, criminality, older friends and acquaintances and repeatedly going missing, absent or truant.
Dorset Police is actively engaging with local businesses through Chambers of Commerce to encourage them to be aware of the signs of CSE and to actively challenge and report it.
Cliff Turner, Independent Chair of the Dorset and Poole and Bournemouth Safeguarding Children’s Boards, said:
“We know from Rochdale, Rotherham and Oxford that bad things happen to children and young people if people are too scared to speak up about possible exploitation.
“If you see or know something suspicious please discuss your concerns with the Police or with children's social care. The information that you have could be an important piece of a jig saw picture that could prevent another tragedy".
Bournemouth Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Children’s Services, Councillor Nicola Greene, said:
“We all have a duty of care towards the most vulnerable children in our society and child sexual exploitation has been identified as one of our top priorities. We would urge anyone who suspects a case of CSE to contact the police or their agency partners and anyone who believes they have been a victim of CSE to come forward and talk to someone who will offer them support and advice.”
Detective Sergeant Andy Bell continued:
“CSE is a public protection priority everywhere. Members of the public, retailers and those in service industries such as taxi drivers, hoteliers and food outlets can help safeguard children at risk by looking out for signs of vulnerability and abuse.
“We encourage everyone from all walks of life to think, spot and speak out. There is a responsibility on everyone in society to do all they can to protect vulnerable people. Together, we can work to inform, educate and prevent this form of child abuse.